U.S. Army RDECOM HBCU/MI Student Design Competition

RDECOM Announcement Flyer FINAL 6

Great Minds in STEM invites college students to mobilize a competitive design team, for the inaugural U.S. Army RDECOM HBCU/MI Student Design Competition.

November 19, 2018Deadline for design proposal submissions (4 p.m. ET).

The complete solicitation and guidelines are available for download.

This national competition will provide $8,000 Award Grants to support travel and design material costs to finalist teams, who successfully submit a research design proposal in topic areas of Army interest. The cross disciplinary team (e.g. materials science, mechanical engineering, chemistry, computer science, etc.) must be composed of three to eight currently enrolled undergraduate students.  Students must be attending a 2-year or 4-year institution, in the U.S. or its territories, and is classified as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) or Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCU). 

Click the following respective links for a listing of HSIs, HBCUs, or TCUs to see if your institution is eligible to participate.

Cash prizes (see below) will also be awarded to the winning teams.   

No more than one design proposal is allowed per eligible institution. You are strongly advised to obtain a faculty to help you with the formal uploading of required government forms and the five-page proposal through Grants.gov (which can take a few weeks to work through the institution), obtain the official FAA Remote Pilot Certificate, and guide you through the proposal submission, as you bring the best minds together for this rewarding challenge that will garner you, your team and your institution, great national attention!

There are two (2) Army-focused topic areas that applicants can submit a proposal against.

Topic 1: Small UAVs: In current UAVs, power is delivered from the center hub out to each motor via a wire bundle which runs the length of each arm. The goal of this challenge is to eliminate wire bundles in an innovative way, integrating power transfer with the arm structure. You must acquire or build a prototype quadcopter UAV, then modify it with arm(s) utilizing embedded wiring. NOTE: For flight operations, university team pilots must have a FAA Remote Pilot Certificate or alternatively can operate under a university Certificate of Authorization.

Topic 2:
UAVs from Biologically-Based Material. The design challenge calls on teams to contribute to state-of-the-art technology supporting the soldiers in the field. Biology offers renewable, sustainable, and seed-able solutions to the production of chemicals and polymers. Utilizing biology to create materials for engineering solutions, Teams are requested to use cellulose produced from bacteria to assemble UAVs with onboard functions required to fulfill a military mission. Growing conformal polymer materials as a forward-deployed fabrication technique will supply the demand for tools under resource limited conditions.


Design proposals should not exceed a total of five (5) pages. Included in the 5-page submission should be a:

3-page Project Summary/Abstract that provides a concise description of the research design project and the Army-focused technical area under which the submission should be considered. The design proposal should provide sufficient information on the prototype being proposed (e.g., hypothesis, scientific or engineering theories, design concepts, construction approaches, data measurements and analysis, etc.) to allow for a technical assessment by Army Subject Matter Experts.

An additional page should identify the key personnel/team members, summarizing research credentials (name/contact info, field of study, year of study – freshman, sophomore, junior, senior) and also name any faculty advisors.

A final page should include a budget outline for travel/lodging costs to participate in-person at the competition judging site of (El Paso, Texas) in April 2019. The budget outline should include any related travel and material costs.

NOTE: Items also due with your submission but are NOT counted in the 5-page submission limit are: the Department of Education Eligibility letter, a one-page Project Summary/Abstract (per field 7-Mandatory information for SF-424) and any institutional letters of support. A letter from the institution (with an official institutional signature) is required indicating the student team will officially represent the institution in this design competition.


November 19, 2018Deadline for design proposal submissions (4 p.m. ET). Note: A copy of the U.S. Department of Education letter dated November 2017 or later certifying eligibility for Title III or Title V assistance must be included with each application. If the letter is not submitted with the design proposal, the submission will be deemed ineligible and will not be evaluated or considered for award. 

January 11, 2019: Awardee teams notified of grant award and competition requirements. Applicants submitting a design proposal will be notified on or about January 11, 2019 as to whether they will receive an award and be invited to the competition stage. Awardees will be matched with an Army “mentor” to consult with their representative teams during the competition phase. 

February 1, 2019: Award of grants to selected finalist teams. Approved teams will be provided a grant of $8,000.00 for the design competition. Up to $7,500.00 is allotted for travel and no more than $500.00 can be budgeted for materials for the prototype. 

April 23-25, 2019: Competition/Final Judging Event at The University of Texas at El Paso. Each Awardee team will have 20 minutes to present and demonstrate their prototype for a panel of judges from the Army as well as industry and academic partners. For the prize cash awards, teams will be judged on: (1) ability to describe the solution and the details of its design and inspiration; (2) clarity of description of how it addresses one of the Army challenges; (3) success of demonstration; and (4) plan for how it could be commercialized for Army use. 


First Place Team: $5,000. Second Place Team: $4,000. Third Place Team: $3,000. Fourth Place Team: $2,000 


For questions concerning programmatic content, potential applicants are advised to contact:
Dr. Vallen Emery
Army Research Laboratory